Released by: Inner Wound Recordings
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Sarah Teets – Vocals, Flute
Jeff Teets – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Mike Lepond – Bass
Kalin Schweizerhof – Drums
1. Back From the Edge
2. Through the Open Door
3. Moment of Flight
5. The Machine Stops
6. Consequence of Choice
7. End of Eternity
8. Onwards (Destiny Calls II)
Twenty months after their extremely impressive debut Mask of Lies, American band Mindmaze is back and looking to step their game up even further with Back From the Edge. This time around, the band has brought in Symphony X bassist Mike Lepond as a session member, along with some other impressive guests, including a solo from Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson. But the leading roles still belong to the brother/sister team of Jeff and Sarah Teets, who have both improved on their already impressive performances from Mask of Lies. As much as I loved Mask of Lies, I kinda regret giving it a perfect score now, because Back From the Edge is an even better, more cohesive album all around, that helps fully define their sound, while building on everything that worked on the debut.
Stylistically this album is a bit different, though all the elements from their debut are still fully intact. In fact, it would be less accurate to say they changed their style, and more accurate to say they kept the same elements from the previous album but used them in different amounts this time. Where the Iron Maiden like heavy metal passages dominated Mask of Lies, on Back From the Edge the focus is more on melodic, fast paced power metal with progressive arrangements. As I suspected, the instrumental sections, while maybe not more prominent overall, are definitely even stronger this time around, with Jeff in particular putting in an incredible performance, while all the special guests are great as well.
Most songs are more power metal oriented on this album, though there’s constant tempo changes throughout, and the music is often quite complex. The guitars definitely stand out the most, with every song containing some excellent riffs and melodies, with even the occasional use of those Maiden style galloping riffs from the first album. It’s generally a bit heavier than Mask of Lies, with some of the verses sounding particularly crushing and aggressive, but even the heaviest songs always give way for some huge vocal melodies.
Which leads to Sarah, who sounds even better than before. As on Mask of Lies, she sounds rather unique for a female singer in a metal band and that she neither uses any operatic vocal nor any kind of screams or heavy metal wails. Instead, she just sings the songs naturally, the way they were meant to be sung. She has a powerful voice that often falls in the alto range, and she manages to sound fierce and intense without ever coming close to screaming. Her vocals always fit the music perfectly, be it the more melodic songs like “Dreamwalker” and “Consequence of Choice” or the absolute most aggressive sections, most notably the verses of “Moment of Flight”, which sounds particularly rough and so she in turn sings in her lowest, most powerful register I’ve heard from her.
Perhaps the biggest improvement on Back From the Edge is the cohesiveness of the songs. Where Mask of Lies at times felt like an album of two song styles colliding head on, this album is much more consistent in tone and sound the whole way through, while still varying the tempos a lot and giving each song a chance to breathe on its own. As opposed to the debut, where some songs were simple and others were more complex, on this album almost every song has complex structures and impressive instrumental work, while still containing a memorable chorus. The most straight-forward songs are probably the very speedy title track, and the ultra catchy single “Dreamwalker”. Most other songs are more complex, though even the two epic length tracks never drag or get bogged down by trying to do too much, as the band always hits a perfect balance between being complex and being memorable. An early favorite is “Straight Through the Open Door”, which is another one of the faster songs, and it features an especially fun chorus with nice backing vocals.
The first real curve ball is up next, with “Moment of Flight”. The verses are very aggressive and have a nice groove to them, but as always this gives way to a really nice chorus, where Sarah gets to shine. It also has the solo from Jens Johansson, which is quite impressive as always. “Consequence of Choice” uses a voiceover but in a surprisingly effective way, and musically one of the calmer, more melodic songs on the album. While I love every song on the album, I think the two epic length tracks are probably the best. First up is “The Machine Stops”, which has a very early Dream Theater like instrumental opening, before speeding up and turning into a full on progressive power metal epic. The middle section is quite impressive, with Pharaoh guitarist Matt Johnsen providing a great solo, and the last few minutes are pretty spectacular. Even better is “Onward (Destiny Calls II)”, which I would say is the best Mindmaze song to date. After an epic extended intro, it speeds up a bit, leading into easily the best chorus on the album. And then the amazing middle section hits, featuring a great guitar solo from Lord Tim, then that’s followed by probably the most impressive vocal section from Sarah, before the song closes out in an epic way with her playing the flute.
Mindmaze impressed me a lot with Mask of Lies, but they have absolutely blown me away with Back From the Edge, which is easily the best progressive power metal album I’ve heard this year, and currently one of my top 5 albums of the year overall. An absolute must hear, both for fans of their debut, and fans of power, prog and melodic metal in general.
Written by Travis